While their invention dates back thousands of years – prehistoric Inuit tribes used walrus ivory glasses with thin fissures to block sunbeams – sunglasses only became widely popular in the early 1920s when Hollywood stars began to wear them to hide from fans. Since then, when entrepreneur Sam Foster sold the first mass-produced pairs on the beaches of New Jersey in the late 20s, sunglasses have developed into a must-have accessory. From Audrey Hepburn’s cat-eyed Oliver Goldsmiths to Steve McQueen’s collapsible Persols, sunglasses have helped establish some of the most iconic looks of all time. So, as the warm days approach, we celebrate with a compilation of curious facts – alongside a selection of our favourite sunglasses options for S/S15.
1. To manufacturers’ delight, someone in the United States loses, breaks or sits on a pair of sunglasses every 14 minutes.
2. Retailing for £270,000, Chopard’s gold-detailed diamond sunglasses remain the most expensive sunglasses in the world.
3. From Kurt Cobain to Bono and Lady Gaga the history of music is filled with bizarre sunglasses looks, yet no pop star can compete with Elton John. Bold and colourful, his outrageous assortment counts thousands of glittery and oddly-shaped pairs, all of which are kept in a dedicated closet.
4. One of the most popular models in eyewear history, the green-tinted Ray Ban Aviator was originally invented in the early 1930s to protect pilots from the hazards of high-altitude glare.
5. There’s a reason why Karl Lagerfeld is never seen without his black trademark sunglasses. Referring to his tear drop-shaped, prescription shades, the German couturier explained, “They are my burka. I’m a little short-sighted and when people are short-sighted and remove their glasses they look like cute dogs that want to be adopted.”
6. It is said that Roman emperor Nero took delight in watching gladiator fights through polished diamonds, playing with the image and colour distortion created by their lustrous facets.
7. It wasn’t until 1913 that scientist William Crookes developed shades that could absorb both ultraviolet and infrared light. Prior to Crookes discovery, coloured lenses existed but without these properties.
8. First appearing in 1953 and worn by countless celebrities, from James Dean to Andy Warhol and Bob Dylan, the Ray Ban Wayfarer is reported to be the best-selling style in history.
9. The famous heart-shaped sunglasses worn by Sue Lyon for the promotion of Stanely Kubrick’s Lolita don’t actually appear in the movie, but they’ve nonetheless become very popular among teenage celebrities past and present.
10. Not only can sunglasses give hints about a person’s character, but they can also alter their physical appearance. Backing up this claim is Jack Nicholson who said, “With my sunglasses on, I’m Jack Nicholson. Without them, I’m fat and 70.”